Daily Archives: 04/16/2012

BioWare Tries to Give Away Free Stuff, Creates PR Nightmare

Rewarding your loyal fans is always a good idea.

Except when it means implying other fans are ‘less valuable‘.

Canadian video game developer BioWare, and their publisher Electronic Arts (or EA, aka the most hated company in America), recently unveiled a promotion offering a free month of play time to top-level players of its Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG, or ‘MMOs’) Star Wars: The Old Republic. These types of game often involve a monthly subscription so, for people who quite like these games and are heavily invested in them, this basically amounts to free money. Who can argue with that?

Above: Nothing wrong here, right?

Well, the players who haven’t quite reached the highest level in the game. That’s who. It may be that these players have been around for a while but play infrequently. Perhaps they divide their time between many different characters. Maybe they were even the victim of a hacker, who broke into their account and sabotaged it. Whatever the reason, BioWare didn’t reward them and that sent a message that only the most ‘hardcore’ players mattered.

"I don't matter to a large multinational corporation. I demand free stuff."

I’m going to back up for a second and play devil’s advocate. BioWare is giving gamers free stuff. Not everybody got the free stuff, but those players aren’t any worse off. They simply didn’t receive a reward they didn’t qualify for. These guys who got the free play time were the most ‘loyal’ (depending on how you measure ‘loyalty’).

So who’s right? Who’s wrong? Ultimately, I think what BioWare resolved to do was probably best. By giving players a chance to reach the level they were looking for, they can hopefully stop the negative press. But it caps off what’s been a bad couple of months for BioWare with all the outrage over Mass Effect 3′s ending. And it’s not like SW:TOR hasn’t had a hard enough time getting out from under World of Warcraft‘s shadow.

What do you think? Is it EA/BioWare in the right? Is it their money and they can do what they want? Or have they committed a grave misstep here? And did their correction go far enough? Let us know in the comments.

-PG

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